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Lieutenant Sam Thompson
Lieutenant Sam Thompson
Lieutenant Sam Thompson

Culdrose SAR Pilot to Compete in Triathlon for Charity

Published: 19 Jun 2012

Lieutenant Sam Thompson of the Culdrose based 771 Search and Rescue (SAR) Naval Air Squadron will be hoping that nearly seven months of hard training pays off when he takes on the UK Ironman (UKIM) Triathlon on 22nd July 2012 in Bolton, Lancashire.

This toughest of events consists of a 2.4 km swim immediately followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then a 26.2 mile (marathon distance) run, all within a time limit of 17 hours. Sam is hoping to finish in a time between 10:30 and 11:30 on what is one of Europe’s hardest Ironman courses. He realises that this is going to hurt and despite the event being over two months away, he already has the “fear!” As part of training Sam will complete the Falmouth Half Marathon, the Lichfield Half Marathon, Beaulieu Half Ironman, Stithians Olympic Triathlon, Chester Olympic Triathlon and also the Tour of Wessex which is a cycling stage race and will see him ride over 110 miles every day for three days.

Lieutenant Thompson is also a keen sailor who has been lucky enough to be selected as part of the core crew for TOE IN THE WATER, a military charity that uses competitive sailing as a vehicle for rehabilitation. Now in his second season of being in the team, Sam continues to be amazed by the impact that the charity has upon the lives of the injured servicemen who go through the programme. Sam has entered Ironman UK as a charity entrant in order to raise funds for TOE IN THE WATER and to increase awareness of the charity throughout the military and the wider public. Alongside this he is also collecting for Children’s Hospice UK, Life Education Centres, Macmillan, Leukaemia Research, CLIC Sargent and Marie Curie, all of which are equally worthy causes.

Of his main charity, TOE IN THE WATER, Sam says “The work that they do and the way it changes people’s lives is truly staggering. We have injured guys coming to us having never been on a boat before and within days we throw them into a racing environment against some of the countries best sailors. Dealing with a pitching and rolling boat can be difficult at the best of times let alone if you are on newly acquired prosthetics. For many, it is the first time that they have been part of a team again since their injury and by the end of the week they have proved to themselves that they can do things they thought impossible and be a crucial element within that team. We often beat the professionals on the race course and it is always down to the hard work and spirit that the injured sailors put in.”

In previous years, Lt Thompson has largely trained on his own, but since joining 771 he has enjoyed the company of other triathletes from the Squadron. “Normally, I am the only crazy person putting in the miles and spending most of the time dressed in lycra so it was a welcome relief to get to 771 and find a wealth of experience in cycling, Ironman and endurance racing on the whole. There are at least three of us training for an Ironman this year which makes it a bit more fun and competitive. One of the other guys is actually doing the same race as me so we will have a bit of a 771 showdown in July!”

“I am delighted by the huge amount of commitment and enthusiasm that Sam has put into his support of ‘Toe in the Water’” said Lt Cdr Martin Shepherd, Commanding Officer of 771 Naval Air Squadron. “He is dedicating a significant amount of his spare time towards training for this incredibly difficult challenge and the money he raises for the charity, as well as to that for Children’s Hospice UK, Life Education Centres, Macmillan Leukaemia Research, CLIC Sargent and Marie Curie will go a considerable way to supporting the lives of those who rely on these important charities. I urge people to donate whatever they can in support of Sam and am sure that he will go on to do the Squadron, RNAS Culdrose and the wider Royal Navy proud.”

Training this year has been more consistent than 2010 and 2011. Sam has been battling against the typical Cornish headwinds and was surprised at the amount of climbing that a short ride in Cornwall can pack in. “It is all paying off though, I set a Personal Best (PB) at the Lichfield Half Marathon and another PB the following weekend at a Half Ironman. Hopefully I can get to Bolton in good shape and set myself another record!”

Anyone interested in supporting Sam can donate easily through his just giving page or donate by texting TITW85 £10 to 70070. To find out more visit TOE IN THE WATER


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